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The Santa Cruz Mystery Spot – Never On The Straight And Narrow

There is a place in California where the laws of physics just do not seem to apply. Here water flows skyward and people can actually walk up walls. So, what does one do if they discover a site of such anomalism activity? You charge admission of course! American mystery spot, like the one located in Santa Cruz are a time-honored classic amongst roadside tourist traps. With wild claims of antigravity vortexes and dizzying sensations, how could these places fail to entice the curious? Are they all merely off-kilter rooms designed by highway huckster to disorient the equilibrium of the hapless tourist with optical illusions? Or are there really places in America, such as the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot that belay all that science has taught us about the way the universe operates? We can’t really say for sure, but we’re always willing to take a walk up a wall and amble across any ceiling to find out for ourselves.

Visitors to this redwood-shrouded, seaside resort and college town of Santa Cruz have often observed how…odd the local culture seems to be.

They note the town’s many peculiar characters, its eccentric civic politics, its vast array of bohemian subcultures, and––more darkly––its onetime status as the mass-murder capital of the world. And they wonder what makes this attractive beach town seem even more bent than its sister university-city Berkeley, fifty miles to the north, several times larger, and far more famous as a counterculture weirdness-incubator.

The answer might lie in a 150-foot-wide patch of land just north of the city called the Mystery Spot. First discovered in 1939, and opened to the public a year later, this hillside lot is one of North America’s most famous and visited “vortices”––sections of land where the laws of gravity, perspective, and even physics are suspended.

Originally, the land around the spot was slated to be a summer-cabin site. When surveyors attempted to chart the lot, goes the story, they found their instruments wouldn’t give accurate readings over one particular patch of land. People who visited this spot claimed that a force seemed to be trying to push them off balance, making them light-headed and dizzy.

The plan to develop the land was abandoned. Instead, the owners opened up the site as a tourist attraction, claiming that strange forces were at play on the hill.

Visitors to the Mystery Spot are taken into a small hillside shack sitting over the vortex, and shown a variety of bizarre and seemingly inexplicable sights. Plum bobs hang almost parallel to the cabin floors, billiard balls seemingly roll uphill, and people look as if they are standing at impossible angles, or dramatically change height when they move a few feet.

Various theories have been advanced to account for these odd phenomena. Some claim that the Mystery Spot is sitting on an electromagnetic hot spot. Others say that unknown geophysical forces are at work here. The Mystery Spot’s own Web site (www.mysteryspot.com/) speculates about a powerful “guidance system” for UFOs buried beneath the land that bends and distorts the laws of gravity…and presumably, the local culture of Santa Cruz.

Writing in the May 1981 issue of Omni, psychologist Ray Hyman came up with a far more prosaic explanation for such “vortices.” Investigating the Oregon Vortex, a Beaver State tourist attraction virtually identical to the Mystery

Spot, Hyman noted that the cabin wherein all the “phenomena” took place was an architectural funhouse. It was filled with horizons that weren’t level, corners that weren’t squared, and walls that weren’t vertical, all of which distorted normal frames of visual reference, and created a series of optical illusions that made it seem as if gravity was being violated right and left.

Whether a clever collection of optical illusions, a geophysical anomaly, or an interstellar GPS marker for the Space Brothers, the Mystery Spot has spent the last sixty-plus years as one of the area’s most famous tourist stops. (Part of this is due to the fact that employees give every visitor a black-and-yellow “Mystery Spot” bumper sticker; these free advertisements for the Spot can be seen emblazoned on autos across North America.) A visit to this hillside cabin may not convince you that anything “paranormal” is happening there, but will provide entertainment, and possibly some insight into Santa Cruz’ ethos of eccentricity and illusion. 

The Mystery Spot is at 465 Mystery Spot Road Santa Cruz, CA 95065.  Call (831) 423-8897 for directions and information.

Mystery Spot Remains a Mystery (and That’s How We Like It!)

By Joe Oesterle
Why is a guy who is clearly a half a head shorter than me suddenly half a head taller than me? Why are these ordinary golfballs rolling up a downward wooden slope? Why am I tilted at a 30 degree angle, but I don’t feel like I’m going to fall over, and why are there so many Asian tourists here?

The answer to most of these questions is because I’m at the world famous Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, and the Asian tourist thing really works out in everyone’s favor, because at 6 foot two, I am clearly the tallest person in this group, and it makes the height differential illusion that much more impressive.

Although scientists from fancy colleges will try to explain away the magnetic anomalies and anti-gravitational forces as if they weren’t the work of UFO’s or pure Gandalf-style white magic, the pimply faced tour guides who work here will set you straight. It’s simply unexplainable.

How else can it be that there are never any squirrels in this 150 foot in diameter place of unknowable answers when just 151 feet away, in the parking lot, I saw 2 squirrels frolicking in what I would describe to be as very natural squirrel-like behavior?

Who can put in plain words why birds seldom, if ever, fly over this disorientating park of puzzlement when I know I saw birds soaring through the sky just minutes before I arrived at this destination of disorientation?

How come compasses go all wonky, people are walking up walls like they’re Fred Astaire or Lionel Richie? How can a frail 10 year old kid hang himself from a pull-up bar at an utterly unbending 45 degree angle like an Olympic athlete? Why is it that an 8 pound steel ball suspended from the ceiling in this shack of stupefaction is so easily pushed in one direction, and yet feels much heavier in the opposite course?

Why did my camera suddenly shut down when I was in the middle of taking pictures for this article? Well, ok, I know the answer to that one… I forgot to charge the battery, and my other good batteries were in the car, and I didn’t want to get out of the tour, wait in line again, and pay another 5 dollars to see the same stuff I had up until that point.

But how did I forget to bring those batteries when I’ve always brought my extra batteries for other stories? Hmmm… Makes you wonder doesn’t it. Pretty mysterious, don’t you think?

Perhaps the greatest unexplained mystery of all at The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz is why do they only charge 5 dollars to experience the inexplicable. I know for a fact that myself, and a few busloads of Asian tourists would have easily shelled out ten bucks for this event. Explain that to me, Oh great scholarly skeptic. –Joe O.


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